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Dartmouth College Office of Public Affairs • Press Release
Ford Foundation to fund expansion of undergraduate policy research
At the Policy Research Shop (PRS), a program developed by Dartmouth's Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences, undergraduate students at Dartmouth conduct objective research and offer their findings to the New Hampshire and Vermont state legislatures and local governments. Now in its third year, the PRS has just received a $300,000/three-year funding commitment from the Ford Foundation.
With the Ford Foundation grant, the program will be able to expand and improve its operations, adding a post-doctoral fellow and a graduate research fellow to the staff and developing more public policy curricular offerings. In addition, the grant will fund efforts to replicate the program at other institutions, explained Associate Director of Curricular and Research Programs Ronald Shaiko. "The Ford Foundation is very excited about what we are doing here — the notion that we are engaging students at the undergraduate level and serving the greater good — and they would like to see us create a model that might be of interest to other colleges and universities. We can demonstrate that it is possible to engage undergraduates and policy makers," he said.
Shaiko plans to present the PRS model to political scientists from states with part-time legislatures that have limited staff at the American Political Science Association Teaching and Learning Conference in February 2008. "There are 17 states with part-time legislatures like New Hampshire and Vermont, in which the legislators are not highly paid and staff and resources are limited," said Shaiko. "There are a number of excellent liberal arts colleges in those states that could replicate the model developed by the Rockefeller Center, both on the curricular and practical application side."
The PRS is staffed by undergraduate student researchers who have completed the Rockefeller Center's "Introduction to Public Policy Research" seminar, offered in the fall term of each year. During the seminar, state legislators and staff participate in class discussions about the policy issues to be pursued by the student research groups. Students may then continue in the PRS for one term of academic credit or in paid research assistantships. Through the PRS, researchers have the opportunity for real-world application of the skills acquired in the classroom. Students conduct their own research as well as collect and analyze existing research on topics requested by lawmakers in both the New Hampshire and Vermont legislatures. They prepare high-quality reports and may even testify before legislative committees, where they present their findings, answer questions, and make recommendations based on policy goals, all as undergraduates.
In past years, the students in the PRS have researched and testified on issues ranging from the impact of the No Child Left Behind legislation to an analysis of the options available in offering a voluntary retirement savings plan to the citizens of New Hampshire. Recently, the New Hampshire state legislature passed a bill requiring state utilities to generate 25 percent of electricity from renewable resources by 2025. Prior to the bill's passage, PRS students produced a Renewable Portfolio Standards policy brief that outlined the options for policymakers in designing a plan for utilities in the state; the group also testified before the House Committee on Science, Technology, and Energy. The Shop has also conducted research on Brownfield-site clean-ups for the benefit of town governments in both states. Later this month, the PRS will hold a reception in Concord for New Hampshire lawmakers in an effort to identify policy issues of interest to the legislature that may be integrated into next year's PRS program.
The Ford Foundation is an independent, nonprofit grant-making organization. For more than half a century it has been a resource for innovative people and institutions worldwide, guided by its goals of strengthening democratic values, reducing poverty and injustice, promoting international cooperation and advancing human achievement. With headquarters in New York, the foundation has offices in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Latin America and Russia.
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